Taking a page straight from the Pawlenty playbook, Wilkin County has found a novel way of dealing with the cost of snow removal: it doesn’t. Minnesota rural counties, loath to follow the pattern of raising property taxes necessitated by Pawlenty’s tax ‘cuts,’ have been forced to find alternate ways to manage budgets. So, like Pawlenty, they pass the responsibility onto lower levels of government. It’s a development Minnesotans now experience statewide as counties delegate responsibilities to local levels and townships and cities choose between raising taxes and not acting at all.
This winter, Minnesota’s rural counties decided on the latter option. Townships like those in Wilkin County relegated plowing to only the main arteries and left three quarters of the roads untouched. Residents along these corridors have been advised to do their own plowing. Minnesota Public Radio quotes Nordick Township supervisor Tony Nordick, “In the township I think we depend more on people helping themselves…It’s a small personal form of government.” And so again Minnesotans face the prospect of regressive taxation or the erosion of basic services.
This trend is not likely to end with the spring thaw. More and more, Minnesotans are being asked to open their wallets and cover responsibilities in areas once taken care of by local and state government. We are being forced to pay out of pocket for civic undertakings such as snow plowing and road improvements. Townships are considering ways to outsource summer maintenance projects, and cities like Minneapolis, Edina, and Albert Lea are demanding residents share the cost of improvements to residential streets.
The bottom line is that we all pay for these services one way or another. Traditionally, Minnesotans have pooled resources to tackle costs collectively, lessening the burden on the individual. Snow removal is only the latest tangible example of how conservative ideology has dismantled this consensus and seeks to weigh down Minnesota families. In today’s wintry economic climate, conservatives expect individuals and families to shoulder the expense of even basic civic services.
The onus is now on us as Minnesotans to demand that the state stop passing the buck. Despite the recent balmy temperatures, winter’s not over yet, and we might just find ourselves buried with no plans for digging out.